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Commissioner Stewart responds to media reporting on the Queensland Audit Office report

I want to take this opportunity to clarify a few issues arising from the Queensland Audit Office (QAO) performance audit on criminal justice data.

It has been reported in some media outlets today that the Queensland Police Service (QPS) has been ‘fudging’ or ‘rorting’ crime statistics and that there is a culture of ‘cover-ups’.

I want to be very clear – nothing could be further from the truth.

A thorough reading of the report spells out that the QAO found no corrupt behaviour, systemic or otherwise, during its audit of our crime data.

Yes – the audit found several deficiencies but they are procedural and process anomalies linked directly to the complexity of the environment our officers work in every day. An environment that is rapidly changing.

I am not trying to downplay these issues, but would merely like to put this into context.

And, I am not sugar-coating the issue – there are clearly things we have to do better, and we will … but to imply that officers are deliberately and corruptly manipulating crime data to suit some officially sanctioned agenda is simply not correct.

Crime statistics are an important tool that the QPS uses in allocating resources, developing crime prevention strategies and ultimately in approaching government for funding.

It is in our interests that they are accurate and reflective of the current reported crime rate in Queensland.

To intentionally do otherwise would be counter-productive and goes against everything the Service stands for as an ethical and accountable law enforcement agency.

Alongside the QAO, the Ethical Standards Command oversaw a separate audit into crime figures

We looked at almost 60,000 records which had been classified as ‘unfounded’ or ‘withdrawn’ between November 1 2015 and January 26 this year.

What the investigation found was that 9.4 per cent of the records finalised in this manner had been incorrectly classified.

That’s 1 per cent of all crime reports submitted in that period, and less if all records are taken into account.

I want to stress – they were incorrectly classified – not deliberately misclassified. There is a difference.

This is fundamentally an issue of officers not fully understanding the detailed and complex crime report classification system – and we take responsibility for that.

The QAO makes it perfectly clear that there is not an adequate level of training for our staff in the rigors of crime data classification.

Our audit found that in the cases of incorrect classification, they were mostly as a result of officers making quick decisions.

In fact, the QAO backs this up when it says: a police officer’s decision on how and whether an offence is recorded in crime reports is often subjective. It can occur during times of anxiety and trauma for victims and at times is based on limited information.

There has been a special focus on the Gold Coast in this report – that is because two of our Crime Managers came to us with concerns that crime reports may have been deliberately wrongly classified.

I thank those two members for bringing this to our attention. They did what I expect every member of our organisation should do.

On the Gold Coast specifically, the QAO clearly identifies areas of risk around some of the data classification practices – for example, a risk that these practices could leave staff open to claims of manipulation.

But again, I would like to stress that both the QAO and our Ethical Standards Command investigation found no evidence of corrupt behaviour by police.

Suggestions that police were ‘pretending to solve crime’ or ‘falsified’ crime figures just don’t stack up – they have no basis in fact.

In fact, the QAO says: ‘the Gold Coast District had the second-lowest percentage of offences being classified as unfounded.’ and repeatedly refers to some reports being incorrectly changed.

Despite all of this, the Gold Coast District also has the lowest ‘solve’ rate during the period in question.

In relation to the alleged solicitation of victims to withdraw their reports, in most cases, what officers have done is simply contacting those involved to see if they still wish to make a complaint and verify if the complaint is genuine. The Gold Coast District does not have the highest percentage of withdrawn reports.

We have some work to do to improve our data processes – as I said above, I am not shying away from that.

The work that the QAO have done will stand us in good stead moving forward – and in fact, we have already implemented many measures to improve the quality assurance processes for our data.

I want to reassure the community that the Queensland Police Service strives at all times to act with the utmost integrity and will always be open and transparent.

Our top priority is the safety and wellbeing of all Queenslanders – and everything we do is with this in mind.

If you have information for police, contact Policelink on 131 444 or provide information using the online form 24hrs per day.

You can report information about crime anonymously to Crime Stoppers, a registered charity and community volunteer organisation, by calling 1800 333 000 or via crimestoppersqld.com.au 24hrs per day.

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